Avon Fire & Rescue Service hit by coronavirus

There have been “resourcing issues” at Avon Fire & Rescue Service after a firefighter tested positive for coronavirus in the wake of a huge blaze involving crews from seven stations.  

Firefighters from Kingswood, Avonmouth, Southmead, Temple, Bedminster, Portishead and Nailsea attended the fire at St Andrews Road in Avonmouth involving 20,000 tonnes of scrap metal which began on Sunday 4th October. They fought the fire over three days.

Last night Lee Alford, from Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS), attended the public Community Engagement Forum for Staple Hill, Mangotsfield & New Cheltenham when he highlighted a spike in COVID-10 cases among firefighters.

He said: “We had quite a huge incident in Avonmouth and one of the officers there tested positive on the fire ground, which had hundreds of firefighters on at some point or another.

“We’ve had quite a few mixed messages from Public Health England on who should be self-isolating and who shouldn’t, etc. so that has caused us some resourcing issues.”

He stressed that AF&RS is still managing to fully maintain 33 front-line firefighters.

Today Simon Shilton, Assistant Chief Fire Officer for AF&RS, told The Week In: “COVID-19 has proved challenging for all sectors of emergency response and Avon Fire & Rescue Service is no different. However, we have been working diligently and tirelessly to ensure that our service is strong and communities are safe.

“We do this through regular meetings with department heads and sector leads, clear and consistent communications across the organisation and by working with multi-agency partners, such as the Local Resilience Forum.

“As of today a total of 5.40% of staff are absent due to COVID-19 isolation – with five confirmed cases – and they will be working remotely where they can. However, our extensive preparation and planning has enabled us to implement measures to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible emergency response availability by implementing our established plans.

“We currently have excellent availability of our operational capability and our national resilience assets remain available. The service currently remains strong and resilient across the board.

“We are also working closely with staff to ensure all our sites and vehicles are all COVID-secure, staff are safe and healthy, and that we are able to provide emergency response despite the current pandemic. We do this by working with Public Health England and local heath partners to ensure hands, face and space is adhered to at all times, or mitigating factors are in place where required, such as PPE (personal protective equipment) .

“While one officer did indeed test positive following the incident at Avonmouth, we continue to provide an operational response and we wish him a speedy recovery.”